Thursday 09 May 2019, 09:35

Bonsegundo heading up Argentina’s new wave

  • One of the Albiceleste captains at France 2019

  • A leading figure in the development of women’s football in Argentina

  • South Americans drawn in Group D with Japan, England and Scotland

“I’ve seen the goal many times and it gives me goose bumps. There are so many emotions you go through when you watch it and remember it. It was unique.”

There is a big smile on the face of Maria Florencia Bonsegundo as she once again watches the goal that made sure of Argentina’s place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™, a goal they had to wait seven months for.

Argentina just missed out on one of the two automatic qualification places available at the 2018 Copa America, held that April, which left them having to contest an intercontinental play-off with Panama in November. The South Americans took control of the tie with a comfortable 4-0 win in the first leg, held in the province of Buenos Aires.

Las Canaleras took the lead in the return, only for Bonsegundo to equalise with a superb strike from out wide on the left, a goal that killed the tie off.

“I’m proud and pleased to be representing my country and to be one of the leaders in the team,” said the Argentinian captain. “I’ve been in the national side for more than ten years now and it’s reward for a lot of effort.”

Changes for the better

Things are looking up for Argentinian women’s football. Adding to the feel-good factor after the national team’s World Cup qualification is the recent agreement for the creation of a professional domestic competition and the news that the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) will cover the players’ wages.

Change is taking place elsewhere, with initiatives that include the creation of a cup competition and the involvement of the country’s clubs, who are opening up stadiums such as La Bombonera and the Nuevo Gasometro for women’s football.

“The story’s changing in Argentina, both in sport and society,” explained Bonsegundo. “This generation and this whole process are so important. I hope every single one of us who goes to the World Cup can make a living from football.”

The Albiceleste No11 is one of many Argentinian players who have accepted offers from abroad and put their careers on a professional footing. “My life has changed so much in a year. Yesterday I was studying and working and today I’m devoting all my time to football.”

In her first season outside Argentina, Bonse has played an important part in Sporting Club de Huelva’s successful fight against relegation from the Spanish first division. She made 29 appearances for the club – one of Spain’s oldest – spent 91 per cent of playing time on the pitch, and scored five goals, including the winner away to Barcelona.

“It was a dream of mine to play in this league,” said Bonsegundo. “You’re up against very strong teams and players every week. Having double the training and playing in a competition like this has made me grow as a player.”

No illusions

Bonsegundo’s move to Europe coincided with a series of World Cup warm-up matches for the national team, with the year beginning with respective 5-0, 2-0 and 3-0 defeats to Korea Republic, New Zealand and Australia.

“The results don’t change anything,” said the attacking midfielder. “It was the first time we’ve played World Cup teams on official FIFA matchdays. They’re strong sides and we know what we’re up against. They were really useful games for us, though, and we’ll keep on working.”

Far from letting their heads drop, the Argentinians, coached by Carlos Borrello, continued their preparations with a tour of the USA at the end of March. Taking on university teams, they came away from it with two wins, a draw and a defeat.

“Argentina are showing that we have what it takes,” added Bonsegundo. “We need to spend more time together, but we’re making progress and we want to make a mark. We know this is just the start, the start for a generation that will make people sit up and take notice.”

Florencia BonsegundoSporting de Huelva (ESP)Argentina341008.03.2014 vs 🇨🇱

From China 2007 to France 2019

France 2019 will provide the best possible showcase for the present and future of Argentinian women’s football, with La Albiceleste making their World Cup return after an interminable 12-year wait.

Explaining their objective in France, Bonsegundo said: “Argentina have never won a match at the World Cup, and we want to do it and we believe we can. It would be historic.”

In what is their second world finals appearance, they have been drawn in a tough Group D against Japan, England – two sides they faced at China 2007 – and Scotland, one of the four tournament newcomers.

So is it better to come back and face some strongly fancied teams? “It’s going to be a really hard group but it’s a way of introducing ourselves to the competition and saying, ‘This is the World Cup and these are the games you have to play.’ Argentina will put up a fight and the good thing is we always play to win.”

Explaining what she hopes will happen in France, Bonsegundo said: “Qualifying for the next round would be a dream, and it would also be a dream to score, celebrate it, and, why not, double it up with a win?”

Dreams are there to be achieved and this exciting group of emerging Argentinian players is capable of making them happen.